Don’t I Know You from Somewhere? This whole thing started when I played two video games, one after the other, that I imagine almost no
HIGHER ED TEACHING STRATEGIES FROM MAGNA PUBLICATIONS
Faculty are often confronted by the ghosts of educators past. In the writing intensive courses I teach, those ghosts usually manifest in one phrase: “I’m a bad writer.” This embarrassed confession bespeaks an educational experience fraught with negative beliefs and expectations, not just about their writing but about their ability to succeed in general. The phrase becomes an inescapable prophecy lurking in every writing assignment prompt. “I know I’m not going to do well on this assignment,” they explain to themselves, “I’m just not a good writer.” They do not seek help, ask questions, organize their notes, or create outlines and rough drafts of their essays because the outcome is a foregone conclusion. And of course, because they do not do these vital steps in the writing process, they receive poor grades—and the prophecy is fulfilled. From the front of the classroom, however, I can see the reality: the student is not a “bad” writer but merely under-practiced and under-prepared. But how can I help students to see it for themselves? How can I support students to move beyond negative past experiences and make positive ones? How can I empower students to break these cycles?
Twenty-first century skills necessitate the implementation of instruction that allows students to apply course content, take ownership of their learning, use technology meaningfully, and collaborate. Problem-Based Learning (PBL) is one pedagogical approach that might fit in your teaching toolbox.
I’d like to report on a nonscientific study I have been conducting, without human-subjects approval or even a clear research plan. This won’t make it into the research journals, but the results are still compelling.
My “study” has been continuous for over two years. During that time, I have made numerous trips, at random times, from my administrative office to a building on the opposite corner of campus. For nearly three months, I made the round trip twice a day or more. Every time, I have walked through the ground floor of our main general classroom building, which has about 14 classrooms, mostly 30- to 50-person rooms, but also with one 120-person tiered lecture hall. The classrooms are assigned to courses covering a wide range of disciplines, mostly first- or second-year classes.
“Learning is not a spectator sport. Students do not learn much just by sitting in class listening to teachers, memorizing prepackaged assignments, and spitting out answers. They must talk about what they are learning, write about it, relate it to past experiences, apply it to their daily lives. They must make what they learn part of themselves.”
– A. Chickering and Z.F. Gamson, “Seven principles for good practice,” AAHE Bulletin 39 (March 1987), 3-7.
For faculty looking to create a more learner-centered environment there are always a few bumps in the road. First they need to get used to
Most of the time research evidence grows by bits and pieces—not all at once, and the evidence documenting the effectiveness of learner-centered approaches is no exception. It continues to accumulate, as illustrated by this study. It occurred in a third-year pharmacotherapy course in a doctor of pharmacy program. The students were randomly assigned to five- and six-member groups, with each group being assigned a patient case with multiple drug-related problems.
Would you let your students decide when you hold office hours?
How about whether projects are worth more points than exams, or vice versa?
Would you let your students decide some of the topics that will be covered in the course?
Since Barr and Tagg introduced the concept of the instructional versus the learner-centered paradigms in 1995, higher education institutions across the country have adopted the concept in one form or another in an attempt to create learning environments that respond both to the changing profile of our students and recent research on learning with the ultimate goal of improving student success.